Letter from the Smithsonian
BACKGROUND: There's this nutball who digs things out of his back yard
and sends the stuff he finds to the Smithsonian, labeling them with
scientific names, insisting that they are actual archaeological finds.
The letter below as written by one of the Smithsonian curators after
the guy sent in a Barbie doll head, claiming it was a human fossil.
Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled
"211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull." We
have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination and we
regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it
represents "conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Hennepin
County two million years ago." Rather, it appears that what you have
found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff,
who has small children, believes to be the "Malibu Barbie".
It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the
analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of
us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to
come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that
there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might
have tipped you off to it's modern origin:
1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are
typically fossilized bone.
2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic
centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest
3. The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is more consistent
with the common domesticated dog than it is with the "ravenous
man-eating Pliocene clams" you speculate roamed the wetlands
during that time. This latter finding is certainly one of the most
intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this
institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily
Without going into too much detail, let us say that:
A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a
dog has chewed on.
B. Clams don't have teeth.
It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your
request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to
the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly
due to carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent
geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were
produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce
wildly inaccurate results.
Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National
Science Foundation's Phylogeny Department with the concept of
assigning your specimen the scientific name "Australopithecus
spiff-arino." Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for
the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted
down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't
really sound like it might be Latin.
However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating
specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil,
it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of
work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know
that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for
the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the
Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will
happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your
back yard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital
that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing
the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing
you expand on your theories surrounding the "trans-positating
fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix" that makes the
excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered
take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman
automotive crescent wrench.
Yours in Science,